Strategic opportunity does not keep knocking at your door for too long. China’s rise and its estrangement with Japan has provided New Delhi with an opening that we would be most foolish to ignore. Whatever may be the rhetoric about building multi-polar relations with nations across the board, India needs to realise that it needs to concentrate its effort on occasions that will yield results, rather than chasing the will-o’-the-wisp.
There are two reasons for this opening. First, the increasing
bellicosity of China vis-à-vis Japan and second, the Indian entente with
the United States. Tokyo and New Delhi are not about to create an
anti-Chinese alliance; yet, there can be little doubt that the
estrangement between Japan and China is to our advantage. We cannot
replace China as a destination for Japanese investment and trade. Some
90,000 large and small Japanese companies operate in China, as compared
to just about 1,000 in India. But, starting off as a hedge for Japanese
companies, we can attract significant Japanese investment and
technology, which can trigger our own manufacturing revolution.
There are two components to the relationship — economic and security.
The economic relationship between the two countries has taken off with a
sharp rise in Japanese investment into India since 2005, and Japanese
companies have made a cumulative investment of $12.66 billion in this
period. India has become the largest recipient of Japanese Overseas
Development Assistance in the last decade, receiving as much as $36
billion in concessional loans and grants. Relations between the two
countries are set to grow further with the Comprehensive Economic
Partnership Agreement signed in 2011. The Abe visit, brought more
commitments on the part of Tokyo.
The Japanese perspective on security emerges from the rapidly
changing global power balance in favour of China; to this can be added
the factor of technological change. In addition, because of North Korea,
Tokyo is also painfully aware of the threats arising from WMD
proliferation, terrorism and cyber attacks. Japan says that China is
rapidly advancing its military modernisation without much transparency,
and in the case of the East China Sea and the South China Sea, it is
attempting to change the status quo through coercion.
Close US-Japan ties have ensured that Tokyo has been able to maintain
its pacifist attitude in the face of grave provocations, for example,
from Pyongang. For their part, the Japanese believe that no nation can
maintain its own peace and security alone and that they need the
assistance of their allies and partners as well. If anything, given the
developments with China, they would like to strengthen their alliance
with the US, which has famously declared its neutrality on the
Senkaku-Diayou island dispute, even while affirming the US-Japan
In recent months, the Abe government has taken other measures
to signal its hardening stand on security issues. As of December 2013,
it has created a National Security Council and adopted a new National
Security Strategy. For the present, they continue to swear by their
pacifist constitution, but with a bit of a nudge from the Chinese,
things could change in the coming years.
Japan’s new approach towards national security is to: 1) Strengthen
its diplomacy with a view of creating a stable international environment
2) Develop its defence forces steadily and maintain a posture that can
deal with an array of situations 3) Protect its territorial integrity 4)
ensure maritime security and insist on a regime based on the rule of
law 5) Come up with a new set of principles for transfer of defence
equipment overseas in view of the new security environment 6) Strengthen
cyber security, take measures against terrorism and insist on peaceful
uses of outer space.
The Japanese maritime self-defence forces (MSDF) have, at various
times, exercised with the Indian Navy and during the Abe visit, a
specific invite was given to them to rejoin the Malabar series of
exercises that we have with the US.
The Indian and Japanese Coast Guards have been exercising together
since 1999 and held their most recent exercise in January 2014.
The lengthy joint statement after the Abe visit underscores the
belief that both India and Japan sense opportunity in the current
geopolitical situation. The joint statement noted that the two countries
have a common view on ‘freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and
peaceful settlement of disputes’ based on the principles of
international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea (UNCLOS). They also agreed on the importance of the ‘freedom of
overflight and civil aviation safety’ in accordance with the principles
of international law and the rules of
the International Civil
Aviation Organisation. The bit about ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’
and the issue of overflight and civil aviation safety was new language
as compared to past joint statements, and they unambiguously pointed
India and Japan still need a great deal of patient dialogue and
effort to transform the opportunity they have into reality. They need to
clinch the Indo-Japan nuclear deal, if only to clear the decks for
in other high-technology areas. Likewise, they need to
successfully conclude their negotiations for the US-2 amphibian
aircraft, which Tokyo has offered India. The US-2 may be a minor issue,
but behind it lies the promise of deeper ties with Japan in high quality
technology, which can be used for defence purposes.
Mid-Day February 4, 2014